A major restructuring is taking place in West Jordan's police department as the force of about 30 patrol officers mixes new work with old problems.
On Friday, the department initiated a contract with the Defense Nuclear Agency to provide security for the Soviet missile inspectors who will live at a newly built compound at approximately 7900 S. Old Bingham Highway soon. The inspectors are in Utah under provisions of the recent U.S./Soviet INF treaty.The department will be hiring 11 new officers to accommodate the security contract. But until that happens, officers will be working overtime to meet contract demands: two officers at the inspectors' apartment complex 24 hours a day.
The city is also in the process of selecting a new chief, so the bulk of the new work being handled by the department is currently being administered by Lt. Ken McGuire, who has served as acting chief over the city's combined police and fire department since the former public safety director, Kal Farr, resigned in December.
The new work is upbeat, but the department has been set back because of sagging morale brought on by salary complaints and by a threat earlier this year that the department might be disbanded and police services turned over to the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department, McGuire said.
Pay issues affect more than the police department. Public Utilities Director Bob Davis said a survey taken last summer showed that the salary schedule was the biggest morale buster in his department also. The proposed budget for the coming year includes money for merit raises but not cost-of-living raises.
A combination of unusual opportunities to move to bigger departments and the pay/morale issue has squeezed six officers out of the department since November. The most recent resignation was effective Monday.
Before November, the average time of service on the force was between four and five years - fairly mature for a suburban police department prone to lose its more experienced officers to bigger departments, McGuire said. But the experience level will be knocked way down with the 11 new officers that will be hired to meet the needs of the Soviet contract, and the six officers being hired to replace those who quit.
"We'll have a lot of rookies around," McGuire said.
Chances are, most of the new officers hired will be fresh out of the state police academy, McGuire said, and special training is being scheduled to meet the particular needs of the Soviet contract.
McGuire estimated it will take a year for things to get back to normal around the department.
Two of the officers that left West Jordan were hired by Salt Lake City, which has a department big enough to offer more chances to work in a specialty area. Salt Lake City has eight or more homicide detectives, compared with West Jordan, which has none, McGuire said.
While opportunities to specialize and higher salaries in the bigger departments often lure officers away from smaller departments, McGuire said several officers who left recently have said they miss the informality of working in a suburban department.